August 5, 2010
by Brian Leubitz
That’s exactly what the American “Family” Association wants to do. In an email to their supporter list, the AFA called for Congress to impeach Judge Walker for failing to conduct himself with “good Behaviour”:
Yesterday (August 4), U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker single-handedly overturned California’s Prop. 8, which elevated protection for one-man, one-woman marriage to its state constitution.
In doing so, he frustrated the expressed will of seven million Californians who went to the polls to shape their state’s public policy on marriage. …
Fortunately, the Founders provided checks and balances for every branch of government, including the judicial branch. Federal judges hold office only “during good Behaviour,” and if they violate that standard can be removed from the bench. Judge Walker’s ruling is not “good Behaviour.” He has exceeded his constitutional authority and engaged in judicial tyranny.
Judges are not, in fact, unaccountable. They are accountable to Congress, which can remove them from office. Impeachment proceedings, according to the Constitution, begin in the House of Representatives. It’s time for you to put your congressman on record regarding the possible impeachment of Judge Walker.
Where to begin? There’s just so much crazy that is genuinely difficult to choose just one nugget. Let’s first start with the popular vote issue. I’m hesitant to bring this up again, because really? Really people?
Let’s talk about this. Do we really want everything up for a popular vote? I guess it’s easy to criticize when you are the one putting up other people’s rights for a vote. But, flip the script, and what does the AFA say about it when somebody puts an initiative on the ballot limiting the number of kids you can have. I mean, limited resources and all. It worked for China, right? Right, AFA?
The larger point is that some rights are sacrosanct. They are not privileges that are earned or that should be put for a plebiscite. My relationship should not be disfavored because a majority of California voters get squirmish, or are fearful, or are baited into fear through a $40 million scare campaign.
This of course ties directly into the question of impeachment. “good Behaviour” wasn’t intended to be some sort of generic “the majority doesn’t like you” catch-all. After all, there are decisions made all the time that the majority disagrees with. Yet, we don’t impeach those judges. Heck, the entire point of the judiciary was for judges to be a check on the tyranny of the majority. If we go around impeaching our judges because they apply the constitution simply in a way we don’t like, the entire Article III power of the judiciary will be wiped away.
Of course, this isn’t all that the AFA has said on the matter. In a right-wing online publication, they suggested that this was all in self-interest. Because, you know, Walker is gay (and doesn’t have the good grace to hide it back like those pleasant closeted gays of generations past). I’ll point them to my earlier post, “Did They Know Justice Alito is Male?” Back then, I pointed out the irony that nobody was complaining when Justice Alito was writing a ridiculously sexist opinion in Lilly Ledbetter’s case:
We all have some mix of racial, geographical, socioeconomic and other backgrounds. And they are all mixed up with who we are. We can’t take those labels off no matter how independent or fair you are. Yet some will still see this as sort of bias.
So, did anybody comment about Justice Alito’s gender when he wrote the outrageous opinion in Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire that said that under the Civil Rights Act women could not sue after 180 days from the discriminatory decision, even if they didn’t know about the decision for years? The decision that ultimately spurred the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act because it was so egregious.
Can an African-American judge not rule an issue of race? A female judge not rule on issues of gender? These ideas, of course, are patently absurd, as is the charge that Walker should have recused himself.
Yet, AFA and their allies will continue to push for the impeachment of Judge Walker and of any 9th Circuit Judges that concur with the district court’s decision, and probably for any Supreme Court Justice who dares to do the same. For the time being, their aren’t enough right-wing zealots to really push this through Congress. But elections are right around the corner, and their are quite a few of said zealots lining up to enter the halls of power.
Will Congress really take the time, even with a Republican majority in the House, to impeach Judge Walker? It’s doubtful at best. After all, “good Behaviour” was never intended to reflect a merely unpopular decision, rather to serious personal failings that would compromise his ability to be a judge. Things like taking bribes, that sort of thing. In our history, only 14 judges have been impeached, with only 6 of them being convicted. This is not to be done lightly, or for mere disagreements on issues for which reasonable minds can disagree.
But the AFA and their friends are on a rampage. They want blood, and they are going to demand that right-wing Representatives in Congress pick away for it. I suppose this just reiterates the importance of our involvement in not just the judicial process, but always being mindful that we can never forget about the political process.